Wednesday, August 8, 2012

TOMS, consumerism, and why we need to change the way we think and operate.

This is for a contest at so I know it is a break from my usual humorous posts, but I hope you enjoy it just the same:

 In America, consumerism is key. Buying new things makes us FEEL good. We get to show our new skirt/shoes/shirt/house to our friends and silently yell, “Look at me! Look how great I am doing even during this down economy that I can afford all of these THINGS!”

But somewhere along the way, we have forgotten about those who don’t have access to the same resources we do. We forget that while we are watering our lawns with perfectly sparkly H2O, some people don’t have access to clean drinking water. While we nibble at our lunches in the mall food courts – throwing away enough food for an additional meal when we are done, we forget that others haven’t had a full meal today. And while we show off our shiny new shoes, we don’t think about the countless children who walk to school barefoot on the other side of the world because their families simply can’t afford the luxury.

And yes, there are charities and nonprofits. And we feel great when we donate. We give our 75 cents at the checkout line and smile at the good we have done while we cart our hundreds of dollars in groceries to our SUVs. Every little bit adds up, but we aren’t exactly saving the world with our pennies and we aren’t stopping our lives to make a difference to society.

That’s where TOMS comes in. We could learn a lot from a business model like TOMS. While nonprofits are chasing every penny they can find, savoring their 501.c.3 status, and businesses are out looking for the bottom dollar so they can pay their CEOs hundreds of thousands of dollars, TOMS has found a for-profit business model that is changing lives and making the world a better place. Every time I think of TOMS, I get this huge grin on my face.

Buying TOMS means more than buying a great, quality pair of shoes. A pair of TOMS for me equals a pair of shoes to a child who didn’t have any. That good feeling we get from the 75 cents at the grocery store fades quickly, but every time we look down and we see our TOMS, we get that great feeling all over again. We get to look stylish, make a statement, and do good for others, all by supporting our need to buy material items.

And other businesses should get on board. If every time I bought a water filter, a family in a developing country received one too, I would be filtering my water daily. If every time I bought a book, a child in need received a copy of the same one, I would buy more books. If every shirt, dress, or pair of skinny jeans I purchased made life better for others, my wardrobe would be huge. But forget about me for a minute. Children across the globe would have clean water, access to books, and clothing. The world would be a better place. We as a nation would feel better about our consumerism, and we would all say “Thank goodness TOMS thought of it first, because this is the direction we all want to be heading.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween = Monster Eye

My Halloween was a bit crazy, but fun! Bozeman had Monster Ball on Thursday so we bought tickets. We got to go to all of the bars, see bands, etc. Great fun! I was dressed as Waldo and kept "waldo-ing" people's pictures. Random groups of people would stand together and I jumped in the background at the last second. A bunch of Bozeman-ites are going to have a fun time finding random Waldo in the back of their pictures! It was really funny and made me really happy... and then I got sick.

Luckily my roommate and I had a DD so I got to go home and go to bed. No more drinking for me. I woke up and it felt like something was in my eye. I looked and looked for it and couldn't find anything. I tried to flush it out with water, I tried to blink a lot, but nothing worked. I had tears streaming down half of my face but I didn't have time to do much about it. I had a meeting with representatives from all of the organizations that serve veterans at 7:30, followed by the most important meeting I have had to date at 9:00, so I parted my hair hoping my bangs would cover my red, swollen, watering, lop-sided eye. It didn't really work. I left the bathroom and ran into my roommate. She looked terrible. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Hi. Sorry about last night. My eye hurts.
Roomie. I just threw up my toast.
Me: We are a shit show.

My roommate went to work since she had a big presentation and I went to my meeting, even though there was no amount of makeup that would make me look decent. I sat through an hour of boring meeting with tears streaming down half my face, while I kept moving my bangs to cover my monster eye. I was drinking lots of blue powerade (hangover cure!) but it was not helpful. No bueno. I sent My roommate a txt at one point saying "Do you think if I asked nicely they would turn off the lights and whisper?" and she wrote back "I just threw up again." So then I laughed out loud for a second, which made me look like even MORE of a freak at my veteran meeting.

Then I went to work. I showed up with five minutes to spare before my first site visit from the Very High Ups. I told my supervisor I had something in my eye and that I was going to sit through the meeting and then go home and nap - she seemed perfectly fine with not having to look at my freak-eye all day. It was HALF its usual size, I had cried off all my makeup on the one side, and the white part was a vibrant red. The Very High Ups said it looked like I was doing great (while trying not to stare at my deformed face) and told me to go to the doctor.

I went to the optometrist and filled out the intake forms. The whole visit was a joke. The form said "sports/hobbies" so I wrote "long walks on the beach." The optometrist asked what happened, but I had no idea. He asked if I had sensitivity to light and I replied, "I'm hungover if that counts." And then he shined a light in my eye and I assured him that "yep. definitely sensitive to light." He put a drop in my eye that shows damaged tissue when looked at with a blue light - it hurt my eye and made my hangover hurt TENFOLD. I promised myself I would never drink again.

The optometrist told me it looked like I had taken "a pretty good chunk" out of my cornea. Well, that explains the pain. Then he told me that it looks like I did it with my fingernail. I almost threw up. I got a prescription for steroid eye drops and since WalMart has $4 prescriptions, went there to pick it up. I had to wait 15 minutes for them to fill it, which felt like an eternity with my freak eye, so I wandered around the food section. I didn't stand out too much at Walmart amidst all of the other locals who don't have to work at 10:30 am. I kept hoping and hoping I wouldn't be put on I bought bacon and pizza rolls, picked up my prescription and went home. SURPRISE! My roommate was home too! Apparently puking at work earns you a day off!

So... We changed into pajama pants and ate bacon, pizza rolls, and pizza for the whole day. She kept shooting looks at my Monster Eye - I am pretty sure she was trying not to stare. The steroid drops had taken away a lot of the pain and redness by the next day, but my eye still itches intensely.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Memories of Mom

Growing up I never understood why my mother reached her arm across my body when she needed to stop the car suddenly. This was the cause of much frustration growing up for me. She would see a deer, a stop sign, or a flower at the last possible second and slam on her breaks. At the same time her arm would shoot out to the passenger side, pinning me to the back of the seat. I would complain every time - telling her my seat belt would do more towards keeping me safe than a bony elbow to my sternum.

Then last week, I got it. I finally understood. A deer jumped in front of my car, I slammed on my breaks, and I instantly reached my arm out to save the one I loved. She did it because she loves me! She wasn't trying to annoy me. She just had motherly instincts and a love for her precious cargo.

I loved my precious cargo as well. We spent the night together, basking in each other's company. Me and my bottle of wine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

City Sitting

My new side-job in Montana is house sitting (for gift cards, of course) and I have spent the past few days out at a house in the mountains. This would be an easier side job if I wasn't such a germaphobe. I am watching two dogs whose favorite hobbies are sleeping and eating poop. I wish I was joking. This fact is even confirmed in the house-sitting instructions left by the family.

But I digress... These dogs get one walk in the morning and one at night - about a mile and a half total. We walk to the mailboxes and back and the dogs are supposed to faithfully walk by my side. The only problem? They don't. This is wild Montana and there are animals everywhere. There are bear scratches on the front porch, ground squirrels running around the fallen logs outside, birds aplenty, etc. The wild animals insure the presence of dead critters along our walk.

The dogs (twice in 24 hours) have run off the path, up into the woods, and out of sight to chew off pieces of dead animals. This means I have had to run up a muddy bank after them, chase them through the trees, and try to convince them to follow me home. There is no way to convince them to drop their rotting treats. Once they finish the treats, they loyally follow me home, only stopping to eat every pile of poop they can find.

One time one of the dogs refused to drop this rotting animal bone she found and carried it all the way home. She refused to drop it, even once back at the house, so I dry heaved and tried not to vomit while I took a piece of paper and used it as a barrier to pry the moldy, gristly bone out of her mouth.

This morning on the way home one dog started eating poop, I begged her to follow me, she looked at me, picked up the poop and jumped in the river to finish her shit snack.

You know how people say "you are what you eat?" I disagree. I say you smell like what you eat. I smell like yogurt, oatmeal, and garlic, I am sure. But these dogs smell like poop. ALL OVER. I literally gagged when I walked into the basement where they sleep this morning.

I decided to give the dogs both baths. Keep in mind I have never bathed a dog, I am still not sure how it works, and I was dry heaving just looking at these dogs. I convinced one to follow me to the tub and told her to get in. No go. I threw in a dog treat. No go. I threw in her favorite toy... she was freaking out but not getting in the tub. Then I gave up. I grabbed the shampoo, took the dogs outside and found the hose. I dumped Herbal Essences down their backs, then one by one held their collars as I sprayed them with the hose, screaming every time they shook off. I even tried to spray the hose in their mouth to no avail. Their breath smells REALLY BAD!

I ran back in the house, pried their beds away from under their wet bodies, and threw the covers in the washer. The dogs sat and stared at me, smelling like a mixture of poop, shampoo, and wet dog. Not a good improvement. I put them back in the basement to dry, then showered and scrubbed in a hot shower.

I might be a bit over my head here in Montana.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My "Effing" Staff Retreat

My office just had its staff retreat, and decided to mark the occasion with a "Team Building Ropes Course." I am one of the most competetive people in the world, so I decided to climb the 30 feet to the high course first. I made it to the top and crossed the first path with ease. I essentially had to walk a tight rope while going around large boards in my way. HA! That was EASY! I knew I would have no problem with the rest of the course.

While I was crossing, a few more staff members climbed on up. Others climbed halfway up, looked down, then hastily climbed down. There were three of us up by the time I crossed the first path. One, our executive director crossed to the middle while the other crossed to the far side. I decided to impress the ED by crossing the tire swing portion to get to the middle with her.

The paths of the ropes course had several degrees of difficulty. Unfortunately for me, they were named after ski slopes - Blue, green, black diamond, and double black diamond. This is unfortunate because I had never skied before, so I was just going by what sounded nice, "Oooh, two black diamonds? That sounds fun!"

Double black diamond is the hardest skii difficulty, and many of our skii staff said they wouldn't attempt it. Now mind you, we weren't skiing, we were playing on ropes! And these ones had tires! They looked fun!

I stepped into the first tire and swung out. I quickly grabbed the second tire. Oh wait. My harness was wrapped around the first tire. I had to go back. I pulled on my harness with one hand and the tire with the other and untwisted myself. I soon made it to the third tire. My coworkers were cheering me on.

By the fifth tire, I was exhausted. My legs shook as I reached for the next tire. My abs were screaming in agony, and my arms were holding on for dear life, but they were quickly giving up hope. My coworkers continued to cheer.

I finally reached the last tire. My body was failing. I was using muscles I didn't know I had. But wait. I didn't know how to get from my flimsy, swaying tire swing to the steady, but high up platform. My coworkers' cheers became mixed with helpful suggestions. This, mixed with my competetive nature made me self conscious. I put on the happiest voice I could muster and called, "Hey! Thank's everyone, but could you please stop cheering for me?"

My Executive Director was standing at the platform. I looked up at her in misery and asked for a hand. She pulled me up to the platform and said, "That was the nicest way I have ever heard anyone say 'shut the fuck up.'" ... ah well, at least I impressed her with that, if not with my incredible athletic ability.

I was thrilled to make it to the middle, but then realized the fastest way down (to relieve my achy muscles) would be to cross over TWO more courses. I tried not to whimper as I went over a green and a blue course. One was simple, only using leg stretches to reach widespread platforms. The other required my shaky arms to hold on to a series of ropes dangling from a wire above to cross. The cute guys running the course didn't even ask me to climb down, they just lowered me on a rope until I could lay in the sawdust below.

After all staff members returned safely to the ground and stopped for Starbucks in the ski lodge, we were handed a few starburst and told to give them to people we thought were "stars." I handed mine to the ED and said with a huge smile, "This is for dropping 'F' bombs with me on that middle platform, AND for getting me off those effing tires. For that, you are a star."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Calling in sick to work.

In AmeriCorps we get 10 sick days and 10 vacation days. I plan on using my ten vacation days to get home for Christmas, so I have to use sick days when I want to skip work. This morning was one of those days.

But I digress. I woke up this morning feeling terrible, pushed snooze on my alarm, and fell back asleep debating if I should call in fake-sick to work. When I woke later, in a house I am house sitting for (illegal in AmeriCorps to earn any extra money, so this was already a big no-no) I went to the kitchen to make my tea, and found a TON of people. Not four or five... more like hundreds. Drinking. Partying. Trashing the house. Apparently they were all there by invitation from a bunch of my Portland friends (hi guys!).

I quickly ran back to my room to get dressed and grab my phone - I had to call in to work, you see - and found the first of many house party games. This one was called quilting, and the object was to dip your feet/high heels/muddy boots in red paint, then jump on various beds throughout the house to see who can make the prettiest quilt. I was livid.

I ran to the kitchen to find my friends again and a game of MASH had broken out. This was not the MASH we played as kids, oh no. That would have been fine. This game involved dumping an ant farm on the kitchen floor and seeing how many you could mash with a broom before they crawled to infest the house.

Oh sorry - I know I said hundreds of people, but let me put this party a bit more in perspective for you. Will Smith was in attendance and NOBODY cared. He was in the living room watching people "bull fight" with the taxidermied elk and buffalo wall decorations (it's Montana. Those are popular decorations).

As I carried several red paint-covered quilts upstairs to the laundry, spraying every inch of the house in raid, and yelling at guests it hit me. I still hadn't called into work. I quickly dialed the number and began in on my excuse.

Me: (sounding miserable) Hi. It's Alyssa. I have a migrane so I won't be coming into work today.
My mom: (jokingly) I would have a migrane too, if I was at that party. Oh my gosh. You aren't seriously trying to call into work with that excuse, are you? Where are you?
Me: Damn Damn Damn. I know. I know. Sorry. I will call you later.

I went through an endless maze of closets and rooms looking for the laundry, frantically thinking of a better excuse for calling in to work. "Personal Day" was sounding more and more like the winner as I opened room after room of people tearing this house apart. I finally found the washer - being blocked by someone's rabid dog. I threw the blankets at the dog and began to run around frantically asking people to leave. It took forever, but finally the house was empty. Even Will Smith left. I surveyed the damage on the house - millions of dollars.

I crawled back into my bed, exhausted and fell asleep. When I woke up I realized I still hadn't called in to work. And wait... is this MY bed? Am I in MY house? IS THAT THE TIME!? I quickly called work - running late even now that I was out of my dream world - and came up with a logical excuse. "Hi... ummm... it's me... Alyssa. I,uh, slept through my alarm. haha. I mean. I am on my way." Eloquent, I know.

I figured a day at my desk, shoved in a corner, speaking to nobody would be FAR better than going back to that dream house and trying to pry those quilts from the rabid dog I gave them to.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bugging Out

Although Montana has a lot of “dos,” it also has some “don’ts.” I am negotiating these through trial and error. I will add to the list after I have been here a bit longer.

Drive 85mph with no consequences
Bring your dog to the bar, the restaurant, etc.
Talk to everyone like you have known them for years

Try to smell nice on a hike
... and I am sure there are some other things.

The don’ts can be tricky. My friends and I decided to go for a short nature hike last weekend up in Bridger Bowl. My first Montana hike!!! I got ready, putting on my only pair of brown shorts, a black shirt, my hiking books (okay, okay… sneakers), and some deodorant and perfume. Sounds fine right? Wrong.

The second I stepped out of the car, I was assaulted by a mini swarm of (six or seven) large black bugs. They were so loud and they continuously dove for my head, neck, shoulders, etc. So, I did what any smart, confident girl who lived in a large city for the past five years would do. I screamed. I ran. I skipped. I jumped. I twirled. I said “NO!” to the bugs… My friends thought it was hilarious. I was essentially giving them an improv ballet. I assumed as soon as they were out of the car the bugs would distribute among the three of us and I would be able to defend myself from only a few bugs. Wrong.

The minute we hit the trail, the bugs multiplied ten fold. My friends were mostly ignored, while I became the center-point of a cloud of these insects. I felt like I was the nucleus of an atom, and all of these black bugs were electrons, spinning around me erratically. Every time the pests dove at my body I squealed and ran laps around my friends who continued to laugh. They finally suggested we could go – after about ¼ mile on the trail. That is, we were ¼ mile from the car, but with my running about, I had essentially jogged a mile. I begged my friend to hurry with the car keys as I danced around her, swinging my arms wildly as she fished around in her backpack.

She finally connected with the keys and I took off at a sprint. In my mind it was like a cartoon – I was Charlie Brown (okay, okay, Porky the Pig) sprinting for safety, while the swarm of bugs behind me formed large shapes to communicate their message. I pictured them forming an arrow pointed at my back, the words “get her!” and a giant sledge hammer. I ran that trail so fast my old PE teacher, Mr. Hanson, would have been proud. I made it back to the car, locked the door (in case these giant black fiends could open it with their horde mentality), and caught my breath while my friends walked back.

My friends say next time I am not allowed to wear perfume. I say next time I bring a tennis racket and kill anything that tries to get NEAR my face – or as I have begun calling it, my Money Maker… I am going white water rafting in Yellowstone this weekend. I don’t think I will even put on deodorant. The ratio of men to women here is 2 to 1 so I probably don't have to try too hard.